Best Men (1997) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

It really takes a lot of ambition for a director to think that she can balance violent tragedy with lowbrow slapstick comedy with Elizabethan poetry. I'm not sure if trying to do so implies arrogance, or cluelessness, or just supreme self-confidence. 

Imagine "Quentin Tarantino's Gilligan". Now imagine that this week's episode is the following: Hamlet is a real character who is somehow stranded on the island, bunking up with Skipper and Gilligan. Hamlet has serious discussions with the professor, bops Gilligan playfully on the head with his silly feathered cap, and ends up slaughtering Mr and Mrs Howell because he thinks they killed his father. We see the murder in grisly detail. In the final scene, Gilligan gets hit on the head with a cocoanut and thinks he was just dreaming the whole thing, until he sees the feather from Hamlet's cap blowing past his hammock.

That's what Best Men is like.

This is a film about a bunch of guys on their way to a wedding. It begins when they pick up the groom upon his release from prison. They joke about the predictable subject of prison rape, and the new ex-con says, with apparent sincerity, he's gonna kinda miss having a cock in his ass. He is just goofing on his friends, to test their reaction. Did I mention that one of these characters is gay? Oh, and another one is played by Andy Dick. I did kinda like the concept of having Dean Cain play the gay guy while Andy Dick plays the manly stud-boy, but this will give you an indication of the humor level.

On the way to the wedding, one of the guys asks to be dropped off a few blocks from the church, so he can "catch a little fresh air". This is criminal-speak for "rob a bank", just as "I have to powder my nose" is woman-speak for "I gotta take a wicked shit". I mean, what choice did the guy have? He didn't have any cash on him, and he needed to do something about a wedding gift. Within a few minutes, we have the entire wedding party involved in the robbery, a bank full of hostages, the local police surrounding the building, and the FBI arriving to take over. The FBI want this guy bad. He's on their 10 most wanted list for multiple robberies, and is actually a Shakespeare-spouting soliloquist nicknamed Hamlet. One more detail. The chief of the local police is Hamlet's father, and they have to work out their lack of love in front of the world during hostage negotiations.

One of the hostages, as it turns out, is a crazy former Vietnam hero, a helicopter pilot played by Brad Dourif. This will come in handy later, because he is sympathetic to their cause (he was casing out the same bank!), and a you can just smell the imminent arrival of a deus ex helicopter.


none. See Tuna's thoughts

The rest of the movie follows a formula:

  1. a zany laugh
  2. a tender moment wrapped in Elizabethan poetry
  3. a violent death

I guess for lack of a better comparison, this is sort of a Butch Cassidy for the new world, and in fact the ending of the film seems to be a direct nod to that Newman-Redford classic. Imagine Butch Cassidy in modern times, with a Tarantino level of splatter and glib dialogue, stir in Hamlet, and voila.

I won't tell you that this was entirely without merit or potential, but it simply didn't work. The humor didn't work at all, and the attempts to be serious were embarrassing, like a drunken uncle telling you how much he loves you. They really could have made some great moments out of the wedding, which went on in the bank during the hostage crisis. Imagine the police all doing the hokey pokey with the hostages, and the Feds dancing with the bride. Imagine the potential toasts! Imagine FBI guys disguised as the wedding band. The best they could come up with was the minister being an FBI guy in disguise, and brutally slaying a member of the wedding party before being gunned down himself in a bloody gun battle.

The director, Tamra Davis, is the same person who did that Britney Spears movie, but dismissing these two projects isn't really a fair way to look at her career. She also directed Skipped Parts, which is terrific, and Half Baked, which has a lot of very funny moments. One thing Tamra is not going to win is a special medal for consistency. Check out her IMDB entries:

  1. (6.67) - Skipped Parts (2000)
  2. (5.99) - Half Baked (1998)
  3. (5.99) - Billy Madison (1995)
  4. (5.75) - Best Men (1997)
  5. (5.31) - Guncrazy (1992)
  6. (5.30) - CB4 (1993)
  7. (4.73) - Bad Girls (1994)
  8. (2.66) - Crossroads (2002)

There's a chasm between 6.6 and 2.6. There are Oscar Best Picture nominees rated lower that Skipped Parts, and deservedly so, but there aren't many films rated lower than Crossroads!

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen format, 1.85

Here are the worst seven movies with a 2002 release date and at least 200 IMDb votes:
  1. Crossroads (2002) 2.6/10 (2170 votes)
  2. Rollerball (2002) 2.7/10 (850 votes)
  3. Slackers (2002) 4.2/10 (372 votes)
  4. Kung Pow: Enter the Fist (2002) 4.4/10 (678 votes)
  5. D-Tox (2002) 4.5/10 (234 votes)
  6. Snow Dogs (2002) 4.8/10 (485 votes)
  7. The Queen of the Damned (2002) 5.0/10 (1380 votes)

As you can see, Crossroads and Rollerball are in a league of their own. 

Tuna's thoughts

Best Men (1997) is a robbery hostage comedy that I did not find especially funny. A bunch of long time friends pick up one of their buddies who is released from prison, and go back to their small town for his wedding to Drew Barrymore. One of their number is the FBI's most wanted "Hamlet" bank robber, and son of the local sheriff who is running for mayor. The others have no idea. He stops in to rob the bank on the way to the wedding, and the rest interrupt to see what was taking him so long. They all end up as accomplices. They gain a friend in the bank, who, luckily for them, is an anti-establishment Vietnam vet and helicopter pilot who had been planning to rob the same bank. Everyone in the bank, and in town, knows them, but the arrival of the FBI sends things out of control.

We have lots of cleavage from Barrymore, and an up-skirt that reveals her white bloomers on top of a moving bus trying to get on a hovering helicopter. For me, it wasn't awful, it was just not special. C.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two stars. 2.5/5, Apollo 52/100

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 5.5 /10, Apollo voters 73/100.


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a weak C-. Not enough talent for a concept that required a delicate balance between violent tragedy and slapstick comedy. Mainly, just not very funny when it tried to be. (Tuna: C)

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